What To Do When You Just Can’t

dandelion-333093_1280

As we begin our series on healing, it seemed like the best place to start wasn’t with a specific trial, but with the feeling that you just “can’t”.   Sometimes the problem is one BIG thing, but most often it’s not just the big stuff, it’s the entire pile of stuff! Life seems filled by a couple big things, some medium sized challenges and then all the little frustrations get added in. And it’s the little things that on their own would be no problem, when stacked with everything else, makes you feel like the whole world is out to get you. It seems like they come at you day after day in an attempt to drain the joy out of life and cause you to feel like you’ll never finish fighting.

I’m pretty sure you’re already envisioning your own past experiences dealing with exactly what I’m saying.

Sometimes you feel like you just can’t do it or deal with it anymore. And a millisecond behind that feeling is the knowing that things could be a lot worse and you don’t really have anything “that bad” going on. Then you kind of feel guilty for even thinking that you can’t do what’s right in front of you. And that just makes it worse. Haven’t we all been there?

Maybe it goes something like this—sick kids for days on end. You barely have time to wash the germs from one of them off your body before another one starts to come down with the same symptoms. And then there’s the additional laundry, special food requests, your regular job, childcare, housework, errands, your other kids who have practices and last minute projects, orthodontist appointments, and the husband you know you have but you haven’t actually seen or talked to in weeks because life is just this revolving door of exhaustion. We all have those seasons.

So what do you do when you wake up in the morning and force yourself out of bed, fighting hard against the desire to simply disengage and skip all this stuff? And how do you find God in it?   And what does he want you to find in this anyway?

What if all you’re supposed to find is him?

Here’s my take on struggles. He is not DOING this to you, but he is ALLOWING you to walk with him through it. Yes, walk with HIM through it. Life is hard. And there isn’t really an answer to that “Why?” question. Walking through the valley is grueling, and sometimes it seems like we’re there WAY too often and for FAR too long. But when we’re in the valley, we can’t stop walking.  We can’t set up camp and decide to stay. We simply have to keep going one step at a time. And in the desolate place, we find that we’re not really alone after all. We experience relationship with our father (God) in the valley that we wouldn’t have been able to see on the mountaintop. We find that he carries us when it’s hard; he encourages us when we doubt, and he strengthens us when we’re weak.

2 Corinthians 12:9 is a verse I lean into when I’m weak, And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” I’m reminded of the truth—I don’t have to be “strong enough”. I don’t have to fix it. I don’t have to force it. But I must engage his grace and receive his power.

The best way I’ve found to do this is through rest. Yes, I’m talking about all forms of rest. If you can go someplace quiet and lie down and focus your heart on God for at least 15 minutes, that’s fabulous. If it’s more of a place where you’re still doing the things you need to do, but you tell your mind to rest and you’re breathing in his peace, that’s great too. Cease. Stop. Breathe. We can’t put it off, and we can’t tell ourselves that we don’t need it or that we don’t have time for it. I don’t need to force myself to be stronger. I need his rest. You need his rest. We all need his rest! It’s ok to tell him that you can’t do this; he already knows.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 

Resting is a challenge for me.  It does not come naturally. It’s hard for me to stop moving, both physically and mentally. But I’ve learned the value of rest. There have been TONS of moments where I have chosen not to engage his rest. I’ve pressed on and pushed beyond my limit. I’m not the only one who pays for that kind of mistake. My family pays. They feel it when I snap at them for one of those stupid reasons like spilling the contents of a cup or better yet, spitting the liquid that was in your mouth across the room because your brother made you laugh. Or when a bowl of cereal (and milk) goes cascading across the kitchen because one of my kids was being silly and thought they’d dance their way to the table. When a harsh word pops out of my mouth it hurts. It hurts them and it hurts me. I don’t want those moments. I want the grace filled ones where we can laugh and live and clean together. But in order to get to the those moments, I must choose rest.  I must surrender myself to that sacred place. It’s in those quiet moments where either my mind or body (or both) is still, that God speaks to me. His words—his love—change everything. My circumstances are exactly the same, but the way I see it, and myself, is different.

There are many good books on rest. And if you’re able, I’d encourage you to search out some of them. But there are times that you really don’t have any extra moments for reading aside from the Word, and if that’s you, there’s no pressure here. Just embrace God, and let him embrace you. Start with one small passage and read it over and over (for days and weeks if necessary) until it’s penetrated so far into your heart that it’s changing you.

[Place Your Life Before God ] So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Romans 12:1-2 The Message

I totally understand that this looks different at different stages of your life. Most of the time, it looks a little different every day. Rest with a baby or toddler looks different than rest with teenagers. Rest when you’re working full time looks differently than rest for a stay at home mom, or a work at home mom. Not one of these places or seasons of life offers us an automatic place for rest. It is space that we must make though—it recharges our soul, it invigorates our mind, and resuscitates a faltering heart. He invites us to come, to lay our burdens before him and receive his rest.

So what are you waiting for? Rest. Yes, right now. At the very least, close your eyes, breathe him in, and breathe the weight out. Start with a simple prayer, “God I am weary. All this stuff is wearing me down. Show me how to find you, to find joy, and find myself. I know that you are with me. I need you right here, right now.”

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

To Help You Heal

LxohbUQ

Life is hard. We all find ourselves up against “it”. There are lots of things.

  • A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
  • Your child tells you that they were sexually assaulted.
  • Your spouse leaves.
  • Your kids are bullied.
  • You are bullied (because let’s be honest, it happens to adults).
  • Your dreams fall apart.
  • You lose a friend to drug addiction.

This is just a short list. There are many other things that we go through that make us feel like we’re struggling to stay afloat in a sea of trouble. We can barely get to the surface long enough to catch our breath.

And that’s the problem. We feel like we’re fighting through, on our own, barely able to stay alive. There’s no one throwing us a life-preserver or helping us to shore. But here’s the truth—everyone is going through something. And most of the time, they don’t realize that we are too. If they do perceive our agony, the other problem is that they think they don’t know how to help. Let’s be honest, most of the time we don’t know how to help ourselves, which makes us feel incapable of helping someone else.

But the greater truth in all of this is that we are not alone. God is absolutely with us. He is fighting for us, and with us. He will equip us to not only survive, but to thrive despite our troubles. And when we learn how to do this, it gives us the ability to do the same for those around us.  We can offer that life-preserver we so desperately wanted to receive.

So what do you think? Think I’m totally out of my mind? Or do you agree with me? Maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, too burned out to truly believe that you’ll make it through, but too tired of fighting to surrender yourself to the thought that “this is all there is.” DON’T surrender. This stuff you’re fighting is NOT the end of your life. It’s not the end of beauty and joy and redemption that God has planned. The resurrection days are just beginning if we stand in faith and don’t give up.

David said it well when he wrote Psalm 25, verse 16 reads like the cry of a desperate heart: Turn to me and be gracious to me, For I am lonely and afflicted.”  Here is what I know about God: he hears, he answers, and he comforts.  

Come with me on a journey this summer. We’ll talk about the hard stuff. And we will heal.

Follow along on my blog (https://whisperandwonder.wordpress.com) and my author Facebook page for video chats.

 

Lost & Found

In honor of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day~

On Nov. 14, 1997, I gave birth to my first child, a daughter we named Elise.  It was not an easy pregnancy or delivery.  The days following were the hardest I knew, at that point of my young 19 years.  Elise was born at just 26 weeks of pregnancy and passed quickly from our arms to the embrace of heaven.   The amount of time I spent with her was not enough.  I felt utterly lost—robbed of the life our family was supposed to enjoy together.  There was no way to realign my expectations with this reality.

A journey of deep healing forced itself upon me, I didn’t have a choice.  I had to trudge through the valley and keep going if I were ever going to make it out alive.  Most days I felt saturated by the raw rains of fall.  The façade around me was barren, echoing the climate of my heart.  Colorful leaves now gone from the trees, their branches hung naked.  It was the emptiness I felt inside.  Nature understood me.  It grieved with me and cried out on my behalf.  Winter’s ache came next, cold and stiff.  I struggled to warm myself against it.  Somewhere along this season’s journey I found the healing God offered.  He was with me all those days when I mistakenly thought I was alone.  He whispered love as leaves fell over me; he soothed the sorrow of my soul while cloaking me in gray.  He covered me, sheltering me in a safe place where I yielded to the sorrow.  As I waited in the stillness comfort came and he did that which only he can do—forging wholeness from the broken pieces of my heart while I was unaware.

I learned to love Jesus in new ways that year, as I found myself diligently looking for evidence of his closeness.  I breathed differently, aware that I inhaled his very presence.  He would never leave me, which meant he was always with me.  I asked him to show me how to see my life differently.  I wanted to look through his eyes of promise.  Without his lens I’d never find the beauty in this life.

My circumstances didn’t change as winter moved to spring.  My heart still ached for Elise and longed for the day Charlie and I would discover a new life growing inside my empty womb.  But in the midst of this sorrow I found an answer deeper than those things for which I grieved and the questions which resounded.  I found a love that ran deeper than my loss.  I found the arms of Christ encircling me, and felt his endless devotion like I had never known before.  I discovered that he IS enough.

It wasn’t that this discovery made life easier, but it settled me.

Friend, he longs to settle you too.  If you are facing the chill of fall, do not give in to the cold embrace.  Keep fighting, don’t lose heart; take one more step.  I promise you, Jesus promises this- The Lost Are Always Found.

The Grief Train

A freight train ran over me last week.  I saw it in the distance and tried to tell myself that we weren’t on the same track.  I wanted to deny the potential of what was looming on the horizon line.  I wanted to turn the other way so I couldn’t see the puffs of steam getting closer.  I wanted to stick my fingers in my ears and hum loud enough to drown out the constant chugging.  I wanted to close my eyes and pretend that I lived somewhere else, in a land untouched by grief and the Christmastime loss of my dad.  I wanted all these things, but they didn’t happen, they couldn’t happen.  While I saw the train coming, I was unprepared for its arrival.

I had no real expectations for Father’s Day, no distinct thoughts about my heart’s well being.  I knew our schedule surrounding the day and tried to allow for a few moments of quiet time.  In the midst of feeling the loss I also wanted to celebrate my husband Dan, who is an amazing father to our kids.  We were going to spend the day together, and host a picnic in the evening for my family.  No big deal, right?  I told myself that I could do this, celebrate Dan throughout the day and honor my dad through the dinner.  Sometimes though, I lie and tell myself that I’m capable of things that are way outside the realm of possibility.  This was one of those times.  I hoped that if I said it often enough, that it would indeed be true.  In the end, a lie is still a lie.

I don’t know the precise moment when the train hit, although I would guess it was pretty much about the time my eyes opened and I took a deep breath of the morning’s gentle air.  I awoke to a day I’d never faced before, my first fatherless Father’s Day.  I pursed my lips and exhaled slowly, reassuring myself that I could do “this”.  I rolled over and said, “Happy Father’s Day” to Dan.  At the culmination of those 3 simple words, a solitary tear went streaming down my face.  I knew that the game was up, my lies were over and this was going to be a very exhausting day.

By 10 am I had applied mascara 3 times, discovering that it’s practically impossible to separate and coat wet lashes.  I wanted to look like my normal self even though I felt awful.  I’m not a “cute crier”.  My eyes get puffy and my nose gets red.  No amount of makeup can hope to mask my emotion.  I discovered this 20+ years ago, but I haven’t given up trying.

The day was filled with activity, some planned and some created.  Constant movement seemed to be my final attempt to hold my emotions in check, when what I really wanted was to throw myself face down on my bed and weep until my eyes shed their final tear.  This approach of busyness was as unsuccessful as the first.

Upon the arrival of this grief train, it parked itself in my station and refused to move.  I pushed and I pulled, but I was no match for the size and weight of this train.  It’s not like I haven’t grieved my dad’s death in the past 6 months.  I’ve spent a lot of time pouring out my heart before the Lord, my husband and friends.   I’ve gone through countless boxes of tissues since Christmas.  I’ve mourned the individual and cumulative loss over our family: it covers my mom, my kids, my husband, my siblings, my nephew, and me.  It’s complex.  I know this well.  What I did not know was that today, the loss would feel fresh and new, as if it just happened all over again.  The train hit hard, pushing me back to square one where a million memories from past days played like a movie reel in my mind.  The past infringed upon my future and spoke of all the things we would never do again.  It was a crushing blow.  My head already understood this, and while it wasn’t fresh there, I was reliving it in my heart as if I’d never felt it before.

Today there was no ability to hide behind the thoughtful processing of this loss on my family.  It was all about me.  This was Father’s Day.  I did everything I could to change the focus, to stay busy, to maintain emotional control, but I felt helpless.  I thought back one short year to a different time.  My dad was battling lung cancer, he was weak from the treatment regimen, but he was here.  I was thankful.  Last Father’s Day we celebrated with his favorite cheese steak from a local sub shop and milkshake to wash it down.  We teased that he could eat as much as he wanted—the doctor’s would love a little weight gain.  The rest of us would have to ration our bites so that we didn’t pack on the pounds.   We talked about “next year” when he would be feeling better and the world would be brighter.  There were so many memories we wanted to make together.  Now, those conversations felt like empty promises, hopeful grasping-at-straws that yielded no results.

As I stood in front of my dad’s grill, making his signature meal—burgers and hotdogs with baked beans on the side, my heart was broken into a million tiny pieces.  Smoke from the grill stung my tired eyes.  I’d finally stopped the trickle of tears that flowed off and on all day.  Now my eyes watered from my responsibility of “head chef”.  I thought to myself, “I can’t win.”  

Dinner was good, dad would’ve been proud.  This year we all laughed that I didn’t quite succeed in replicating his style—my burgers weren’t as dry as his typically were.   On the outside I smiled, inside I sternly reminded myself that there would be no tears during the picnic.

Night finally came; darkness covered me, offering a quiet place to rest my head and cry.  My responsibilities were finished and I was free to weep.   The sorrow and anguish of my soul poured forth, and like the grief train, there was no stopping it now.  I wept for hours.  Dan laid beside me in silent support.

Finally sleep enveloped me.

Monday dawned, my eyes opened and yesterday’s emotion resurfaced.  I tried to shove it away and hoped this day would be better.  To some degree, it was.  I still felt Sunday’s sting and wished that it would go away.  As the day wore on and my emotions remained unstable I had a life-giving realization.  Once again I’ve been looking with eyes of disgust at grief, when really, it calls to me as a friend.  Grief offers the opportunity to validate my feelings and the legacy of the one who has left me behind.  The piercing of my heart reminds me that I’m vibrantly alive; I still have the capacity to feel pain and loss, and this is wonderful.

I knew from past experience that brokenness is beautiful and suffering produces deep peaceful joy within me.  So I yield myself to feel the pain completely and will allow this loss do its complete work.  I will not shield my heart or turn away.  Grief is like a mountain that I overcome only by tunneling through it.  I step aboard this grief train.  I’m not afraid of it anymore.  I see the conductor give the signal—it’s time to leave the station.  Methodical shoveling fuels the engine’s fire.  The resulting steam puffs over my head, the chugging begins its gentle lullaby and my heart awakens to a different perspective.  This train did not come to run me over; it came to take me somewhere.  I don’t know where we are going, but I trust the One who’s in control of the adventure.  There is a mountain that I must go through.  God knows my heart, he sees the pain and he promises beautiful redemption for my pain.  This knowledge doesn’t make the loss any easier, but it promises that loss is not the end; it is the beginning.

As we depart the station and head out of town I settle into my seat.  I look out the window and see familiar places; I wonder how long it will take to get through the mountain.  I lay my head against the glass and close my eyes.  The gentle bumping of the tracks settles me.  Shallow breaths become deep and steady.   I feel a new invitation come as Jesus extends his hand and offers me a place of rest.  He sees my weariness; he knows I need stamina for this trip.  He asks me to close my eyes and lean into him.  Jesus offers safety and peace.  I don’t have to figure it out.  I simply have to trust that he is holding all the pieces in his hand and that somehow he will make a beautiful mosaic out of my tear stained shards of glass.  His rest envelops me, this time it’s different.  This rest does not simply cover my sorrow; it infuses me with strength and a promise:

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Psalm 126:5 NIV

%d bloggers like this: